74°Mostly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com — August 27, 2014 at 11:10 am 1,625 0

Tide LRT system (photo by Xshadow via Wikipedia)To try to reverse falling ridership, some are suggesting that the three-year-old Tide light rail line in Norfolk eliminate its $1.50 one-way fare.

Making the seven-mile Tide line free, say advocates, would help boost ridership and achieve the system’s true goal: encouraging more transit-oriented development around its 11 stops. The line simply isn’t long enough to attract ridership sufficient to offset its $8 million in annual operating costs, they say.

(As pointed out by the Sun Gazette, Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey has held up the Tide as an example of why the county shouldn’t build the Columbia Pike streetcar system.)

Economic models presented by Arlington County suggest that the Columbia Pike streetcar’s estimated $287 million cost will be offset in the long run by new development and increased real estate values. Given that development is such an important component of the Pike streetcar’s return on investment, should rides on it be free?
 

Photo by Xshadow via Wikipedia

by ARLnow.com — August 26, 2014 at 9:20 am 622 0

United plane at the gate at Reagan National AirportFourteen percent of the D.C. metro area’s population will be going out of town for Labor Day this weekend, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

That’s 842,100 local residents hitting the local roads, rails and airways. Nine out of ten of those traveling — 735,000 residents — will doing so by automobile, the association predicts. That’s up 0.8 percent from 2013, and AAA says the lowest Labor Day weekend gas prices in four years are helping to drive the increase.

“It remains the preferred and cheapest mode of transportation for a couple traveling with children trying to squeeze in a memorable family getaway before the school year goes into high gear,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs, in a press release. “With the wind to their backs, they will also be buoyed along by a positive consumer outlook and improvements in the labor market.”

Air travel, meanwhile, is expected to dip slightly, down 0.3 percent to 64,200 residents who will be flying out of the D.C. area. “Other” modes of transportation, like rail, are predicted to dip 0.5 percent to 43,100 travelers.

Are you planning to travel this weekend? How will you be getting to your destination?
 

by Mark Kelly — August 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm 522 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

What can we expect from our newly elected delegate?

When asked what his first piece of legislation would be during the debate held at George Mason’s Arlington campus, Rip Sullivan said he would introduce a bill to force a trolley referendum. Based on the way he almost forgot to mention it that night, we can probably only expect at best a half-hearted attempt at bringing a referendum to a vote.

His second piece of legislation he said, would be an attempt to change the laws regarding special elections. It is very unlikely this is the highest priority of his new constituents. A higher priority would seem to be to replace an elected representative as quickly as possible on the constituents’ behalf.

Rip’s tenure will start in the upcoming special session of the General Assembly when they will consider the expansion of Medicaid. I think it is fair to say that he supports expanding Medicaid in virtually any way, shape or form.

To give some perspective, Medicaid currently costs almost $9 billion a year and consumes about 22 percent of our general fund budget in Virginia. It is the fastest-growing part of our budget, growing at an average of 8 percent annually. Medicaid is already on track to siphon off resources from education and transportation even if the federal government can find a way to pay for 90 percent of it forever.

Studies have also shown that because of Medicaid’s low reimbursement rates, hospitals pass that cost along to private insurance which raises our premiums — one 2008 study pegged the cost shift at $1,800 per year for a private plan. Driving 400,000 more people onto Medicaid’s rolls will not simply be “free money” for Virginia. It will cost all of us over and above what we already pay in taxes and what our federal government borrows to cover the $500 billion deficit.

But, what does Medicaid do for patients?

Evidence is mounting that Medicaid does not improve health outcomes for the patients who are on it, even versus the uninsured. A University of Virginia study found that surgical patients on Medicaid are 13 percent more likely to die before leaving the hospital than those with no insurance. Compared to those with private insurance, the number is 97 percent.

The UVA study follows a Harvard study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that studied Medicaid patients in Oregon. The results indicated Medicaid “generated no significant improvement in measured physical health outcomes.”

This Wall Street Journal article outlines other studies on where Medicaid falls short. Head and neck cancer, heart procedures, and lung transplant patients were all found to be worse off.

Some counter that Medicaid is better than no coverage at all. But with fewer doctors accepting Medicaid patients, less than half according to this survey, many will be be counted as “covered” despite being unable to find a primary care physician.

While Rip found a good talking point to help get his fellow Democrats to the polls on Tuesday, Medicaid is simply not a desirable form of health insurance coverage for Virginians.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Krysta Jones — August 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm 682 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Krysta JonesAs we watch the events in Ferguson, Mo., unfold, I am thankful for the progress we have made in Arlington to create a more diverse and welcoming community. I am even more determined that we work together to foster civic engagement and leadership opportunities for African Americans and to honor the historic contributions of African Americans in Arlington and all Arlingtonians who have worked to eliminate discrimination and expand opportunity.

Since I was younger than I can remember, I have watched documentaries on the American civil rights movement. Growing up in the 1990s, my mother made sure I understood the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans in our country and also how far we had to go as a community and a country.

These early conversations and experiences shaped my philosophy about civic engagement. I have wanted to do everything I can to repay those who lost their lives and sacrificed so much for me to go to integrated schools, use the same bathrooms as everyone else, and live in any neighborhood I wanted to make my home.

Not long ago, things were very different.

In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that American schools should be desegregated. In defiance of the Court, our state government in Richmond chose to work actively to prevent integrated schools.

In the midst of Virginia’s “massive resistance” efforts, the NAACP filed a suit on behalf of Arlington parents and students. Judge Albert V. Bryan ordered the Arlington schools to be desegregated. In 1959, four Black students entered Stratford Junior High School (now H.B. Woodlawn) with the protection of Arlington police officers, changing our history forever.

Since the 1950s, the struggle for full equality has changed. While our schools are legally desegregated, African Americans are still not fully represented in political leadership.

I founded Virginia Leadership Institute (VLI) in 2006 with the goal of increasing the number of African American elected officials in Virginia.

African Americans are 20 percent of the Virginia population and approximately 8 percent of the population in Arlington, yet only about 250 African Americans across the Commonwealth hold elected offices (county boards, constitutional officers, school boards, city councils, state legislature, Congress).

VLI believes that our elected and appointed officials should be diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and the like.

We believe that residents can be represented effectively by someone different than themselves, yet VLI also believes that one’s background, experiences and characteristics can provide different perspectives that are important as leaders seek to represent and discover solutions for growing and changing communities in Arlington, and throughout Virginia.

VLI, based in Arlington, focuses on teaching African Americans skills needed to win elections and govern successfully. VLI also provides personal leadership consultations to assist them on their life journeys.

In 2014, there are many who question why an organization would focus on helping one group of people get elected to office. Yet current events show us that diversity in leadership continues to be an important element of creating safe and healthy communities as well as addressing crises. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — August 21, 2014 at 1:10 pm 556 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

In two earlier columns, I urged Virginia’s political leaders to try to find bi-partisan common ground to improve access to healthcare for Virginia’s poor.  In the second of those columns, I explained that Republican leaders in many other states, even leaders who opposed the Affordable Care Act, have found ways to do this either by expanding Medicaid or by using a premium assistance model.

Regrettably, Virginia still seems gripped in partisan gridlock.

Virginia’s Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe, continues to insist that expanding Medicaid is the right solution. Virginia’s Republican leaders are just as adamant that expanding Medicaid is the wrong solution. Governor McAuliffe has asked his Secretary of Health to present a plan by September 1 under which the Governor would expand Medicaid without legislative approval. Virginia’s Republican leaders say that the Governor lacks the authority under the Virginia Constitution to proceed without legislative approval. If he tries to do it this way, the Republican leaders have promised to sue the Governor to block his plans.

For nine months, Governor McAullife and Virginia’s Democratic legislative leaders have made their proposal to expand Medicaid crystal clear, but they have failed to persuade Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders. These Republican leaders have just said no.

What is the Virginia Republican legislative leadership’s alternative to Medicaid expansion?

For some Republicans, that alternative may be the status quo.  The status quo shouldn’t be an option for Virginia — any more than it has been for many other states with Republican governors.

It is long past time for Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders to take a stand. If you don’t support Medicaid expansion, what do you support? Put your alternative out there for Virginians to compare side by side with Governor McAuliffe’s proposal.

How about supporting the Arkansas approach?

Arkansas did things a little differently than other states that expanded Medicaid. The Republican-dominated legislature wouldn’t pass a traditional expansion; instead, it mandated that federal money be used to pay premiums for private insurance plans through the state’s marketplace, an alternative proponents dubbed the “private option.” Other states have used federal money for premium support, but not to the extent Arkansas has.

The Arkansas approach has been remarkably successful:

No state has made progress faster than Arkansas….[T]he percentage of the state’s population without insurance dropped nearly in half, down from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent today.

Personally, I strongly favor a straightforward expansion of Medicaid in Virginia — as advocated by Governor McAuliffe.

What I don’t understand is why Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders can’t tell us what they support instead.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by ARLnow.com — August 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm 918 0

Rip Sullivan (photo via Facebook)This month, we asked the candidates for the House of Delegates 48th District special election to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Aug. 19.

Here is Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan’s unedited response:

The election on August 19th is not just about the candidates. It’s about the values of this District’s voters and our shared vision of a more welcoming, innovative, forward-looking society.

I’m running to be your next Delegate because I share the core values of 48th District voters — opportunity, inclusiveness, and equality. I’m running because I refuse to sit back as 400,000 Virginians are denied healthcare services. I’m running so that our children inherit a clean environment. I’m running because voters of the 48th district deserve a Delegate who will passionately fight for their values, not minimize the importance of those values for the sake of winning an election.

The Washington Post endorsed my candidacy last week, noting that I’ve taken “forthright stances” and that “voters would know what they are getting with Mr. Sullivan.” Throughout this campaign, I’ve made clear where I stand and how I will vote on all the issues of importance to the 48th District.

  • On Medicaid, I unequivocally support expansion immediately.
  • On gun control reform, I support reinstating the one-gun-a-month law, universal background checks, limits to high capacity magazines, banning assault weapons, and closing the gun show loophole.
  • On women’s reproductive health, I believe those decisions should be between a woman and her doctor. I will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose.
  • On LGBT issues, I fully support marriage equality and ending workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • On the environment, I’ve shown how we can create a 21st century economy, with Virginia as a leader in creating jobs through clean technology and energy innovation.

In telling voters who I am, I have not tried to reposition myself or suggest that this is a single-issue election, because voters in the 48th District should base their vote on the many issues that will come before the General Assembly.

This is in stark contrast to my Republican opponent, Dave Foster, who is on the wrong side of so many issues. After interviewing him, the Washington Post concluded that Mr. Foster is a “shape-shifter,” saying “he has scrambled to rebrand himself… by taking vague, wait-and-see stands on several key issues.” The Editorial Board went on to highlight that his campaign strategy is “designed to mainly shift attention away from tough votes.”

And Mr. Foster acknowledges as much. At our most recent debate, Mr. Foster – again – refused to reveal to voters what his positions are on choice, gun control, marriage equality, or climate change. He sheepishly concluded to the audience that “I don’t talk about gun control and abortion… as I campaign for this because I know one has to establish priorities.”

Really?

Those are issues Dave will have to vote on in Richmond, and they are priorities to the voters. Voters are entitled to know where he stands before they cast their vote. (more…)

by ARLnow.com — August 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm 873 0

Dave Foster (photo via Foster for Delegate)This month, we asked the candidates for the House of Delegates 48th District special election to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Aug. 19.

Here is Republican Dave Foster’s unedited response:

I have demonstrated as a two-term chairman of the Arlington School Board and President of the state board of education that my problem-solving, consensus-building style gets results for our citizens. We need effective bipartisan representation in Richmond to address the Arlington streetcar, Medicaid, schools, the state’s economy, and the many other pressing issues we face. I will be that voice for the citizens of the 48th District.

I have been married for 33 years to Martha Tyahla Foster, of McLean. Our two children attended Arlington and Fairfax public schools and graduated from Virginia universities. I was President of the Arlington County Civic Federation and involved in numerous other community nonprofits, advisory committees, and PTA’s. It is my concern for the welfare of our community that led me to seek the office of Arlington School Board and the same concern motivates me to seek the office of House of Delegates.

I am concerned, as you are, about having a balanced, rational approach to transportation issues in our area. Unlike my opponent, I oppose the Arlington Streetcar proposal because it is neither practical nor affordable and will consume up to $164 million in state transportation funds that could be better used elsewhere. Roads and Metro, schools and tax relief are far more important to Northern Virginians than this ill-considered project, which will not only require an initial investment of over $500 million but also an annual operating subsidy of several million dollars. If elected, I will introduce legislation to create a public referendum on the streetcar proposal so that taxpayers can have a voice in this decision just as they do on local bond proposals.

As a two-term Chairman of the Arlington School Board and former President of the Virginia Board of Education, I have worked for lower class sizes, improved school safety, enhanced foreign language offerings (Mandarin and Arabic), Virginia’s “No Child Left Behind” waiver, improved Standards of Learning (SOLs), and many other shared priorities. I would like to continue to my work to strengthen our public schools as your Delegate in Richmond. We must protect the cost-of-competing adjustment to state funding that recognizes the higher cost of providing high-quality education in Northern Virginia. We should also give our school boards increased local control over public school calendars and budgets. I know from leading both the Arlington School Board and the state board how critical adequate funding and local decision making are to our schools.

We must once again make Virginia the best place to start, expand, or relocate a business. I will protect our right to work law and oppose mandatory project agreements of the kind that almost derailed the Silver Line Metrorail. I will also resist the imposition of costly and unwarranted state regulatory mandates that duplicate federal mandates. Building upon the transportation package passed by the last General Assembly, with a focus on projects that reduce congestion, improve safety, and spur economic development, is also a priority.

Because I am the most experienced and effective candidate, I ask for your vote on August 19th.

by ARLnow.com — August 13, 2014 at 10:15 am 2,999 0

Metro mapMetro riders have had a couple of weeks to get used to their commutes since the Silver Line started running. We want to know what changes you’ve noticed on your commute.

Metro reduced the number of Blue Line trains stopping in Arlington to better accommodate the Silver Line. It also expected the “Orange Crush,” or Orange Line overcrowding during rush hour, to lessen because some people would switch to the Silver Line.

How has the addition of the Silver Line affected your commute? Choose up to two answers.

 

by Peter Rousselot — August 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm 1,248 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

When Ira Gershwin wrote those memorable lyrics to what became a jazz standard, he didn’t know his lyrics would play a central role in the criminal trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. Anyone still remember “Bob’s for Jobs?”

Regardless of how the trial turns out, something is really wrong with what Maureen and Bob did. We just don’t know whether what they did was a crime under Virginia’s notoriously lax ethics and political corruption laws.

Most ARLnow.com readers know the basic facts of the Bob and Maureen story. An “enterprising” Virginia businessman provides:

  • a Rolex watch for the Governor,
  • a $15,000 gift for the Governor’s daughter’s wedding reception,
  • a $20,000 shopping spree in New York City for the Governor’s wife,
  • large loans to the Governor, concealing the nature of the transactions and the identity of the lender, and
  • much, much more.

The Governor and his wife provide the businessman with:

  • meetings with Virginia officials who could facilitate lucrative deals for the businessman,
  • personal appearances at trade events to promote the businessman’s products.

Maureen’s lawyers claim that none of what Maureen did was a crime because:

  • her family was in great financial difficulty,
  • her marriage to Bob was broken and she was lonely for male companionship,
  • she had a crush on the businessman, and
  • she accepted gifts from the businessman for these reasons — not because she was trading access and influence for his gifts.

Bob McDonell’s lawyers claim that none of what he did was a crime because he didn’t know what Maureen was doing, and McDonnell didn’t do anything for this businessman that he wouldn’t do for any businessman.

Say what?

The McDonnells’ trial is important because it reveals once again the risks of political corruption in Richmond. In 2012, The Center for Public Integrity gave Virginia a grade of “F” for the risks of political corruption, noting that Virginia ranked 47th out of 50 states. Regrettably, Bob and Maureen are part of a well-worn pattern. That pattern includes both Republicans and Democrats. How many more national embarrassments will Virginia’s legislators need to change the pattern?

And how would Ira and George Gershwin have reacted to Maureen’s “crush” defense in this trial?

They would be working on a musical featuring Maureen and Bob. But, the Gershwins would have to find a new name for their new musical. They already used “The Man I Love.”

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — August 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm 599 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

It’s county fair time in Arlington, and the County Board and Congress have hung a “gone fishing” sign on the door until September. As we relax a little for a month before school starts again, it is a good weekend to head out to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and ride the ferris wheel, eat something deep fried and take in the pig races.

There is also a good chance you will run into one of our elected officials, or an aspiring one. That means you should have your questions primed and ready to go.

School Board members will certainly hear about the proposed new elementary school locations. It might also be interesting to hear from them whether the contingency plans are in place for any influx of new students as a result of the ongoing border crossings by unaccompanied children.

It would be interesting to hear from our General Assembly members what they view will be the permanent solution to give Uber and Lyft the ability to operate in Virginia. And, you can ask whether they truly believe the federal government will continue to subsidize Medicaid expansion to the tune of 90 percent. If not, how would they intend to pay for it? Raise taxes? Decrease school funding? Take dollars out of transportation?

If you run into one of County Board members, there is plenty to ask about. Even if the trolley looked like a good idea a decade ago, can they admit that the information we have now is different? Why not take into account the increased cost and decreased ridership from other places that implemented light rail and re-evaluate their decision to move forward? Will they stop wasting our tax dollars on a trolley public relations campaign? Speaking of wasteful spending, why not make the auditor position a truly independent one that will report directly to the Board?

With the special election right around the corner, here are a couple ideas to ask Rip Sullivan, candidate in the 48th legislative district:

  • Did you really tell the Fairfax Chamber you thought the trolley referendum would not come to a vote in the General Assembly? Does that mean you will be unable to get a vote for it if you are elected or that you will not actually try?
  • Do you honestly believe you have a better chance to get things done for Arlington with the Republican majority in Richmond than Dave Foster?
  • Why did you tell the Blue Virginia blog you supported a carbon tax and reinstating the estate tax but then tell the Fairfax Chamber it was not time to raise taxes?

Do not be shy. They decided to run for office to represent you.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Mike Lieberman — August 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm 567 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mike LiebermanOn July 19, the Arlington County Board voted to send $219 million in bond funding to the public for approval on the November ballot.

The bond program this year runs the gamut — $105.78 million for education, $60.24 million for Metro and transportation, $39.9 million for community infrastructure, and $13 million for parks and recreation. These proposals represent the next step in a long Arlington tradition of community investment, and our world-class public infrastructure and well-managed growth in Arlington are the end result.

But often lost in the big numbers of these bond programs is what makes them so effective — the fact that Arlington is not only investing, but living within its means. This fact was validated again in May of this year when Arlington announced that Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s again issued Arlington a triple/AAA bond rating for the 14th year in a row.

These ratings assess the likelihood that a municipality will repay investors the debts it owes; a triple/AAA rating means that repayment is virtually assured. Arlington was one of only 39 counties nationwide to receive this highest bond rating from all three agencies.

The benefit of this rating is manifest each year in the market. In May of this year, for example, Arlington announced that it received a 2.8 percent interest rate for a $65 million general obligation bond sale. Counties with bond ratings of AA, A, or lower generally experience interest rates more than 3 or 4 percent, or even higher to secure the same amount of funding.

This is not rocket science. If a county has its budget in order, and a prudent planning process in place, investors want to invest in that county, and are willing to offer favorable financial terms for the opportunity.

But what does that mean in real terms?  It means that Arlington can spend far less of its tax dollars on debt service, and more on public programs than its peer jurisdictions. That means more dollars collected are actually spent on school construction, improved parks, transportation improvements, and the other public infrastructure we have come to expect in Arlington.

At a time when the news is peppered with examples of financial mismanagement — including a downgraded bond rating for the U.S. government — it should be reassuring to all Arlingtonians that we live in a community that stands as an exception to this trend.

Community investment is what made Arlington what it is, and the ability to continue to make investments at an affordable rate, and with responsible debt service, will help ensure Arlington’s continued success for many years to come.

Mike Lieberman is the Immediate Past Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee and a former member of the Arlington Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission.

by Max Burns — July 31, 2014 at 3:00 pm 1,021 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Max BurnsVirginia is — finally — for all lovers.

In a landmark decision handed down Monday, the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Virginia’s state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

For those used to the challenges of reading through the language of many recent Supreme Court decisions, the Fourth Circuit offered a refreshing clarity and unexpected boldness in stating what an ever-increasing majority of Americans have come to know well: “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable… However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”

The Fourth Circuit judges understand that times and attitudes are changing. For young Americans soon to begin high school or college, even the phrase “gay marriage” seems clunky. They call it what it is: marriage, plain and simple. For this generation, gay and lesbian couples aren’t in some “other” category. They are friends and family, roommates and coworkers. They are people.

They are also the people who are bringing new energy to the institution of marriage.

It is sadly true that it has been the Republican-elected officials in Virginia who have fought hard against marriage equality and, indeed, many other rights for LGBT Virginians such as freedom from discrimination in the workplace. And, it is very unlikely that we will see many Republican-elected officials praise the Fourth Circuit’s decision.

It is also important to applaud the many Democrats who have promoted equal rights even when it was politically challenging to do so. Virtually every advancement of LGBT rights in Virginia has been initiated by Democrats and it was Democrats who fought hard, although unsuccessfully, against the Marshall-Newman amendment that for years banned marriage equality — and even civil unions — in Virginia.

As an Arlingtonian, I am proud that our Democratic County Board leaders have been at the forefront of efforts to extend workplace benefits and other civil rights to gay and lesbian Arlingtonians over the past 25 years.

While the institutional Republican Party may be reactionary and obstructionist on LGBT issues, the youngest adult members of the Grand Old Party are ready to acknowledge what our Founding Fathers saw as self evident: that all men — and women — are created equal.

It’s among younger voters that we see amazing progress on marriage equality, even in today’s hyper-polarized political environment. A Pew survey released in March showed that 61 percent of Republicans aged 18-29 support gay marriages. At the same time, over three-quarters of Democrats in the same age group support gay marriages.

What’s more, these young Republicans support gay marriage without feeling that it jeopardizes their credentials as “real” Republicans.

Fortunately, the vitriolic debate about whether gays and lesbians “deserve” marriage will soon belong to the past. Young leaders in both political parties are ready to move forward to economic and foreign policy issues. They know that we need the fully-engaged talents of all Americans to ensure our economic competitiveness, as well as security and a strong moral example in times of international conflict. We should all be encouraged.

(more…)

by Peter Rousselot — July 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm 622 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAt the County Board’s July 17 work session on Arlington’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), John Vihstadt, seconded by Libby Garvey, introduced a motion:

[A]ny contracts between Arlington County or an instrumentality of the County and a third party vendor or service provider for services of $1,000,000 or more related to or impacting a CIP project require a vote by the Arlington County Board at a regularly scheduled meeting.

Vihstadt said his motion was prompted by the County’s May 30 announcement that a contract already had been awarded to Parsons Transportation Group. That contract provides for a sweeping range of professional services to consult about streetcars. Parsons will advise the County in areas ranging from financial management and reporting, environmental, right of way acquisition, vehicle acquisition support, construction management oversight, and public outreach. For their initial work, Parsons will be paid $7 million to $8 million.

The “public outreach” portion of the Parsons contract allocates $650,000 of taxpayer dollars to a P.R. campaign to try to promote the streetcar.

Vihstadt stated that his motion included the phrase “related to or impacting a CIP project” because the CIP was the topic under consideration at the work session. He was concerned that a broader motion might have been ruled out of order.

Despite Vihstadt’s care in limiting his motion to CIP-related contracts, County staff found a different technicality upon which to base an objection. Staff says that although all contracts for professional services in excess of $50,000 performed as part of a capital improvement project do require Board approval, “professional services” are narrowly defined only to include certain professions.

Staff believes that the $7 million to $8 million package of professional services Parsons will be performing all lie outside the County’s narrow definition of “professional services”. Therefore, no Board approval is required for the Parsons contract.

Under the staff’s interpretation, a contract for $50,001 for architectural services performed as part of a capital improvement project does require a Board vote, but the Parsons $7 million to $8 million contract does not require a Board vote. Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the staff’s interpretation of the County’s current policy is correct.

The staff — and the County Board — are missing the main point.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Healthy government transparency requires broad public awareness and a Board vote prior to committing our tax dollars to large contracts.

The Arlington County Board should change its current policy, and adopt a new policy that requires that the County Board itself approve all contracts of $1 million or more regardless of subject matter.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — July 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm 459 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyNew County Board member John Vihstadt is making a difference.

In response to the latest spending waste — the P.R. campaign to promote the trolley — he asked why the Board did not get to vote on the contract. The response he got was nothing but legalese.

Vihstadt, supported by Libby Garvey, proposed that the Board vote on any contract over $1 million in the future. Even the three “vote trolley” majority could not shoot him down on this common sense proposal.

Now, maybe Vihstadt can do something about the County Board funding meaningless surveys. This week it was announced that the Board believes Arlington residents approve of its housing policies. Those policies have done little to stop the loss of affordable housing stock, but of course they sound good when asked the right way on a telephone survey.

This latest survey ranks right up there with the survey the Board produces regularly to say Arlington residents like the services they get. It is completely useless to learn anything, but it makes them feel better. Funny though, the Board has never produced a survey to say whether Arlingtonians would approve or disapprove of the trolley project if given a vote on it.

Next up, the Board must get the promised County auditor function up and running — an auditor who should be reporting directly to the Board. Until that happens, the Board should ask County Manager to direct the auditor to identify at least 10 substantial ways the Board can trim the county budget for next year. Identifying more than 10 would be better, but it would be a good start.

Finally, our Board should do something about how the bond measures are placed on the ballot. In 2012, the average voter had no idea funding for the aquatics center was in the parks and recreation bond. The County Board should tell the voters exactly what they are voting on. And, if more than $10 million is going to one specific project, why not give Arlingtonians the opportunity to vote straight up or down on it as a standalone measure?

Transparency and accountability are good things. The Board should always be looking for ways to embrace them more.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by ARLnow.com — July 25, 2014 at 10:20 am 2,302 0

Metro’s Silver Line is set to officially open on Saturday, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and other notable officials on hand to watch the first train depart the Wiehle-Reston East station.

The launch of the Silver Line has economic ramifications for Arlington, though there’s some debate over whether those ramifications will be mostly good or mostly bad.

On the pessimistic side, rail transit in Reston and Tysons could enhance the desirability of those areas and present Arlington with stiff competition, especially in the commercial office market.

On the optimistic side, the fact that the Silver Line will run through Arlington on the way to D.C. could actually make the county’s Orange/Silver corridor even more desirable as an economic hub. The video above makes the case that Ballston in particular is well-positioned to benefit from the Silver Line.

Publicly and privately, officials with Arlington Economic Development say they expect Tysons to take many years to develop as a truly desirable urban area, with walkable and active streets and ample housing. Even then, they believe Arlington’s multi-decade head start on transit-oriented development, and its proximity to D.C., will give the county the competitive edge over Tysons.

On balance, do you think the Silver Line will help or hurt Arlington County?
 

×

Subscribe to our mailing list